Q&A with Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Partnerships at Wattpad Studios

Wattpad and the Hachette Book Group recently announced they were to launch Hachette Audiobooks: Powered by Wattpad, a joint venture that will produce 50 audiobooks based on Wattpad stories. We spoke with Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Partnerships at Wattpad Studios about the partnership, the future for Wattpad writers and audiobooks.

Will you be partnering with other publishers or will this partnership with Hachette be an exclusive arrangement?

We work with every major publisher in North America and many others around the world in different ways, but this is the first time popular Wattpad stories will be adapted as audiobooks within an ambitious program and proactive publishing partnership.

We help publishers single out stories that have a great chance at commercial success from the roughly 375 million free stories shared on the platform. We can also:

– offer trend reports that identify and analyze the types of content (genre, themes, subjects, etc.) that are trending on the platform. These horror stories provide an sample of what that can look like.

– provide IP reports that identify the top trending IP on Wattpad as well as ‘hidden gems’ curated by Wattpad’s team.

– offer contesting opportunities that identify rising voices and fresh stories for new IP acquisition.

– Undertake concept and property testing against broad or targeted audiences to evaluate potential development success.

What drove this move – was it because Wattpad could see the audiobooks market growing, or were there demands from the Wattpad community to have an audiobooks option/offer – or both?

It’s been just over a year since we launched Wattpad Studios and this partnership with Hachette is the latest example of how we can work with our partners to adapt Wattpad stories for new formats. Wattpad Studios lays the foundation for us to become an entertainment company that bridges the gap between traditional and new media.

Audiobooks represent the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry, due mostly to the ease of consuming audiobooks on smartphones. With Wattpad users being primarily mobile, we’re confident our users will love listening to their favorite Wattpad stories on-the-go.

It says in the Publishers Weekly piece that you’ll be experimenting with format other than straight audiobooks – can you give further details – binaural sound, immersive audio experiences, etc?

While the majority of titles will be standard audiobooks, we may experiment with other formats such as serialization, podcast-style content, etc.

We’re constantly experimenting with new storytelling formats. For example, we recently launched Tap by Wattpad, a new app for short, chat-style stories.

What in your mind are the specific discoverability issues around audiobooks? How do you think they might be marketed in a distinct way from print books, for example?

Since Wattpad connects an audience of 55 million people every month, we’re able to support our partners through native advertisements on the app. That’s part of the appeal of working with Wattpad Studios, we’re able to amplify partnerships on and off of Wattpad so that the products we produce reach the most people.

Wattpad stories have been successfully produced as books, television shows, and movies. Now, people will not only be able to read and watch Wattpad stories, but also listen to them.

UK research shows a slightly demographic coming regularly to audiobooks. Who in your mind is the target demographic for Wattpad’s audiobooks?

Of the titles selected, each is backed by powerful data and insights. Our partners come to us with genre and demographic specific requests so that we can leverage the billions of data events recorded on Wattpad to curate a selection of titles to potentially co-produce.

Audible seems to be the major audiobooks distributor, but in your opinion which of the competitors are ones to watch over the coming months and why?

Audiobook titles in this initial launch will be sold digitally through major online retailers, including Bandcamp, iTunes, Audible.com, Barnes & Noble, Downpour, eStories, Audibooks.com, Libro.fm, and others.

For our partners, being platform agnostic can actually be an advantage since adapting Wattpad stories for different formats is all about connecting with the built-in audiences these titles connect.

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